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Jordan opposition fares well, but critics unsatisfied

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 10:02 p.m.

AMMAN, Jordan — The surprise victory of 37 Islamist and other government critics despite an election boycott injects a degree of dissent into Jordan's newly empowered parliament. The king has portrayed the assembly as a centerpiece of his reform package, but the opposition says it's not enough and vowed on Thursday to stage more street protests.

Initial results showed the Islamists — who are not linked to the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood — and other opposition figures winning more than 25 percent of the 150-seat parliament, in sharp contrast to the outgoing legislature, which was almost entirely composed of the king's supporters.

Loyalists of King Abdullah II, however, will remain in control of the new legislature, claiming a majority of the seats up for grabs in Wednesday's parliamentary election — touted as the start of a democratization process in which the monarch, a close U.S.-ally, gradually hand over some of his absolute powers to lawmakers. The new parliament will choose the prime minister and be responsible for running much of the country's day-to-day affairs, powers that previously resided with the king. Foreign policy and security matters — for now, at least — remain in the hands of Abdullah.

The 2011 Arab Spring uprisings in the region set off a wave of demonstrations in Jordan, prompting Abdullah to introduce the reforms to prevent the simmering dissent — which has included unprecedented calls for the king to step down — from erupting into a full blown revolt. But Abdullah has attempted to implement the reforms in a measured manner, trying to manage the pace of change.

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